GF Substitutions Part XII: How to Handle your Flops

by Jenn on September 26, 2010

in Flops,GF Substitutions,Gluten Free

Peanut Butter Cookies

Welcome to this week’s installment of GF Substitutions!!! This week, we are going to talk about how to handle flops in gluten free cooking/baking.  But first, I want to remind you that there is still some time to submit to me your submissions for the Special Roundup coming up featuring everyone’s gluten free experiences! I want to see what lovely foods you have been making, and if they haven’t turned out so lovely, what you’ve learned along the way :)  Time is running out quickly so make sure to email me your submissions (jenncuisine at gmail dot com)!

This week is all about dealing with that one thing in gluten free cooking / baking that no matter what variety you try, you always have issues with, and how to keep moving towards progress and keep your spirits up.  I am sure there is something that just never seems to work out exactly they way you want it to, no matter how many kinds you try or how many times you make it.  For me, that thing is cookies.  It seems no matter what type of cookie I try to make, there are always issues.  Too thin and spreading, hard as a rock, or just plain old morphing into something almost unrecognizable at all.  When I try to make cookies, there is always that sense of trepidation and intimidation that comes over me.  Yet I haven’t given up on cookies completely, and keep trying!  I think knowing how to deal with flops is an important issue – flops don’t necessarily mean you’re a bad cook!  I think they can be a bit more frequent during gluten free cooking/baking because oftentimes when we are in the kitchen making gluten free deliciousness, recipes can be a bit experimental – especially if you are trying to make your own recipe or adapt a glutenicious one for the first time.

A little story about my cookie experiences – I have made so many failed attempts at cookies, of all kinds… especially when I have decided to be brave and try my own recipes.  Some have even been able to grace upon this blog from time to time.  I can make sugar cookies that are hard as a rock:

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Though broken up in a food processor they make for a nice cookie crumb crust on a pie!  I can make cookies that spread so thin the only way to contain them is to bake them in ramkeins like a mini cake:

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Though I admit this is not half bad still warm, fresh out of the oven with a little ice cream on top! And my macarons – oh I have failed so many batches that had potential to be wonderful:

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But at least I’ve got a sense of humor about it ;)  Saying that, I’ve made some much better looking batches the more I practiced, but still have never perfected this infamous cookie.   However, messed up macarons are perfect for making frangipane cream to accompany some poached apples.

And then come my peanut butter cookies.  It all started when I was home in the States last and my dad made some gorgeous cashew butter cookies with one of his old family recipes.  I was determined to convert them to gluten free, because they seriously are the best nut butter cookies I’ve ever had.  Ever.

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I have made so many batches of gluten free peanut butter cookies, trying to recreate the perfect chewyness that is our old family recipe.  While I’ve gotten some tasty cookies, I just have not been able to recreate the exact awesomeness that I grew up with.  I will keep trying, but I think I won’t be able to do any more work on them until I get back to the States, because shortening here is not the same as American shortening (at least what I’ve found so far).  The graisse végétale that I’ve found here melts at a much lower temperature than I am accustomed to, and so bakes very similarly to butter – maybe it is not hydrolyzed??  maybe I’m looking for the wrong thing?? – and I definitely need shortening in these cookies so that they don’t spread so much.  So unfortunately, I don’t think I can do much more until I get my hands on some American shortening.  However, I have learned that all of my peanut butter cookie messups make the perfect topping on some ice cream after a swelteringly hot Summery day.

So, I seem to have issues with cookies.  Every now and then I’ve had something turn out well – like these amaretti cookie sandwiches, or the gingerbread house I made last year.  But oftentimes, I just have a lot of cookie flops.  Some might say I should give up on them altogether, just accept that cookies are not my deal.  But I keep trying, and don’t let flops keep me from attempting gluten free deliciousness.  What do I do? Here are some tips I’ve learned over the past couple years to help you make the most out of your GF flops:

  • If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.  I know it’s cliché, but it’s true.  Sometimes a flop is just due to lack of experience, and all it takes is another shot at it to get it right.  I’m pretty convinced my puff pastry issues are because I need to do this tip more.
  • Start tweaking your recipe.  Once you know it’s not your skills (or lack of) causing the problems, maybe it’s the recipe itself.  Start trying to think about what is going wrong, and what changes need to be made.  For ex. with my peanut butter cookies, I know part of my problem is because the “shortening” I have is too soft.  Once I am in the States and try them again, I will make sure to use the type of shortening I am familiar with.
  • Find ways to repurpose your flops if you can.  It’s always less depressing for me when I know I can still use them in some way rather than have to throw good food (and expensive GF ingredients) in the trash.  All sorts of terrible cookies can be turned into deliciousness once they are crushed up and used for other things, but this tip isn’t just limited to cookies.  Have dry icky bread?? Make bread pudding out of it! There are a gazillion ways to repurpose flops!
  • Cook with a friend who knows what they’re doing.  Sometimes you are missing a key step that you never realized, that maybe a friend cooking with you will spot.  Besides, cooking in the kitchen together with friends is always more fun!
  • Laugh at yourself!  It’s ok to make fun of yourself from time to time (heck, I always am when I make something that turns out wrong!).

Don’t get discouraged if something doesn’t come out right!  We all have flops, even more experienced GF cooks.  It’s ok!  Flops are an excellent way to learn more about cooking/baking gluten free in the kitchen, as well as having a little fun with your food :)

How do you handle flops? Any tips or advice?? Any great ideas to repurpose some GF recipes that went wrong?